I saw something recently that blew my mind: Piotr Kowalczyk pulled together a list of “35 Most Interesting Animated Book Covers,” which left me saying not only, “Wow, these 35 covers really are the most interesting animated book covers I’ve ever seen,” but also, “ANIMATED BOOK COVERS ARE A THING? How have I not heard of this??”
Perhaps you’re sitting back and chuckling to yourself, thinking, “Of course animated book covers are a thing. What rock have you been living under?” But I won’t hear this remark, because I am still scrolling, bright-eyed, through simple animated gifs that bring average ebook covers and illustrations to life, going particularly gaga over the gritty Batman and Joker motifs and, oh yes, the elegant reimagining of the Harry Potter series.
Ebooks are becoming more interactive, and it’s about time, too. In a world where new digital masterpieces continue to flood a thoroughly oversaturated market daily, it’s surprising that more authors aren’t taking advantage of, or at least exploring, new technologies that enable readers to truly interact with the written word—and taking advantage of opportunities to make their ebook stand out from the crowd.
Granted, some of this technology is still in development, but we can’t ignore the possibilities technology affords us not only for publishing work online, but also for creating multidimensional works of literary art.
Consider, for example, Ryan Woodward’s superb Bottom of the Ninth, an interactive graphic novel that not only showcases Woodward’s impressive animation skills, but gives us something truly “novel”: graphic panels that move fluidly with the plot, which the reader can interact with thanks to the tap of a button. The graphic novel, which follows ace baseball pitcher Candy Cunningham, can be read on its very own app, an iPad, iPhone, or online (take a look, it’s super cool).
Consider Eli Horowitz’s The Silent History, a digital novel written specifically for iPad and iPhone and also available via a custom app. This mysterious story about a generation of unusual children who are unable to create or comprehend language, but who demonstrate surprising skills, unfolds gradually via 120 “eyewitness testimonials” about the children’s unusual abilities. Plus, according to the novel’s website, “For readers who wish to explore the world of the novel in more depth, there are also hundreds of location-based stories across the U.S. and around the world. These can be read only when your device’s GPS matches the coordinates of the specified location.” New stories unlocked based on the reader’s physical location? The plot thickens, indeed.
Consider that Al Dixon, the visionary behind the innovative new digital imprint Imaginary Books, is publishing a new mystery novel, the real pleasure in life, in “dynamic typography,” or interactive, animated text. The gritty, animated text is integrated into the plot itself, so that the movement of every word illustrates a plot development, or reveals a clue in a philosophical, slapstick adventure about a man whose life is turned upside down after he receives a mysterious summons to a surreal version of Athens, Georgia, and, after falling in with an eccentric set of new friends, discovers that nothing in his life will ever be the same.
Here’s what all of these innovative digital stories have going for them: They utilize new technology not as a gimmick or a “look-what-I-can-do” bit of time-consuming irrelevancy, but as an actual enhancement to story itself. The technology isn’t there for the sake of being there, but because it actually enhances the story, and enables the reader to interact with the literature in wholly new ways.
In a world where there’s an app-improving update or new system available for your device every week, it’s surprising that tech innovations to digital publishing haven’t become more mainstream. However, the current innovations that exist—or will exist in the near future—offer savvy, enterprising authors a relatively untapped realm of creative possibilities for creating, releasing, and promoting their newest digital book.